Flow Blog

last month Free for Feb, this month it’s #internationalwomensday 2 free artist mentor sessions


Last month on Friday 1st February I launched Flow Advice by offering a huge TWELVE half-hour mentoring session to artists. All slots were taken and feedback tells me well received. So thanks to everyone for participating and I hope we talk again soon.

This month, launching on Friday 1st March, I want to do it again (but smaller – that was a big commitment!), but with a focus on mentoring women artists to celebrate International Women’s Day on 8th March. Maybe it is because my daughter suggested I should do it.  Maybe it was my going through old artworks of mine last week and unearthing a commissioned video from years ago, for which I interviewed Bristol women from many cultural background to identify similarities, has been on my mind. Whatever the reason, I think its a good idea.

When I made that film in 2001 I believe my daughter was about 15 years old. Brilliant to see now that, as a fantastic  woman who has studied human rights, she has adopted feminism into her life  in the same way she has good food and enjoying art. I guess it was just part of everyday life.

So the free sessions for March are to celebrate International Womens Day and will be for women only. There will be only 2 sessions this month, each half an hour, so you need to book in quickly. The same system as last month, please complete the preliminary survey, so I have some understanding of what you do and what you would like to discuss.

And off we go!!!


transdisciplinary practice, when 2 different worlds collide, play can begin

I feel slightly embarrassed about using a film about cuddly animals and a fairground soundtrack to broach the subject of transdisciplinary practice, but I have to say it illustrates partnership working between genres rather well. As we all know, art is often grounded in the concept of play, which liberates us to explore new ways of working and operating. We often find ourselves shoe-horned into a niche, and once there, it can be tricky to step out into other worlds, and we get trapped inside our own rooms. It’s quite comfortable in htere – after all – we know the rules of our own area of specialism, we are networked, and familiar with the languages we use to communicate.

But what happens if we step outside, slam the door and go and knock on a strangers door? Can it work? Will our creativity be subsumed by the knowledge of the other? Will we be able to communicate? Neither children or other young animals worry about these things. Then when they grow up, they begin to be sensitive of difference.

Picasso strove to return to a childs viewpoint in his work, as did many others. Paul Klee talked of taking a line for a walk. As adults, when we work with non-art partners, we ar eopen to the possibility of re-engaging with the pleasures and surprises of playing with others who have different ideas. And benefit from it enormously.

So apologies for the frivolous movie, but it did inspire me to write, which is always a good thing. I hope.

Poet Kate Fox summarises open space session on diversity. @thinkingpractice blog

Mark Robinson recently spoke at a session about resilience and diversity in arts practice at the Baltic.

Read the Thinking Practice blog for the full story, it raises some very important questions about resilient practice and considers why artists and arts organisations might, or might not, ascribe to partnership working. The poem used to summarise the event, by Kate Fox, uses brilliant metaphors about packing your case without knowing where you’re going; being willing to change clothes with others; the delights of buzzing around and irritating people, and the proposition that a swarm of mosquitoes might be needed to effect change. And moving outside your comfort zone to work with people outside the arts.

I truly believe that travelling/working with non-arts partners is an inspirational journey, crossing or ignoring boundaries, exploring the terrain and talking to people on the way is important.

I’d be happy to be in the swarm, would you?

Mark Wallinger new works for Tube have moved me to write about them, and I haven’t even seen them yet!

Mark Wallinger was commissioned to make work to celebrate 150 years od the Tube in London. He has come up with Labyrinth – a series of monochrome enamel signs that are all different and will over time appear at every Tube Station. The artwork is utterly beautiful, from its conception to its delivery. I want to share why I think this is so.

* It’s relevant – it’s immediately clear there’s an empathy with the visual order of the Tube map
* Each is unique and tells its own story, yet it’s a coherent set
* The allusion to entry and exit, one way in and one way out, is how you FEEL when you navigate the network
* They all resemble a brain – there are 2 sides – one solution – it takes both logic and creativity to complete them
* The material quality if perfect – being made by the sign-makers that create all the other industrial signs for the Tube – these guys know their materials, their enamels and their process. It’s loyalty to process and product.
* Whilst that sounds like a conveyor belt system – it’s not, they are very much  hand-made, using screens, enamel inks and kilns (this is the part of the film that made me sigh with pleasure, to see how they were made!)
* Being black and white with the red cross they provide a simple visual system that steps over language difference. We all know a red cross marks the spot where we stand
* The red cross is associated with emergency, maybe here we have ’emergence’ – the imminent emergence of coming up for air, escaping from the fuggy, airless underground
* claustrophobic’s could calmly trace their fingers around, a mandala for reducing stress

Sam Blair and Jared Schiller have made an excellent film (my apologies if you found a duff link, it had been changed! Works now) of the making of the Labyrinth series. Watch the film and keep going until you see them being made. Wonderful that the process has been shared, this is how good arts projects should be – sharing the magic! And there’s more information about the work on that site too. Enjoy!

I for one can’t wait to see them!

art can add value to local economies – artists take specialists with them and create work

Several years ago I worked with Nathaniel Rackowe in the the Forest of Dean. Nathaniel developed the technology with Jason Welsby, to create ‘Spin’- a work made of electro-luminescent wire that creates a visual illusion of being a spinning 3D box high up in the air. That was in 2008 for Reveal (video). Since then Spin has been developed and has appeared in South America and now in New York.

It’s SO important that we remember that whilst delivery of a project is framed within a time span, according to the hatch-match-despatch way of funding projects, art lives much longer and doesn’t stop there. And the people that work with the projects continue to work together, and employ people. Art creates economy – as Dame Liz Forgan recently said: “The contribution to the arts from general taxation is a minute 0.05 per cent of the national budget, down from an exciting 0.07 per cent a year ago and lower than when Margaret Thatcher came to power. Last year the government’s grant in aid was £400 million. Add another £213 of Lottery players’ money (please note NOT government support for the arts) and the total came to £613 million. It got £26 billion back in gross value added by the cultural and creative industries.

Spin by Nathaniel Rackowe in Lima


A few places left for free half hour telephone conversation about how Flow can help your project

Flow Contemporary Arts Advice is  offering 12 free half-hour telephone conversation slots to provide an assessment of artist and arts organisations’ needs in relation to project development.

Flow Contemporary Arts can cover many aspects, from the idea to the delivery.

For more information about how to get involved, visit the webpage or go directly to the enquiry form and submit your details.

NOTE: There are only a few places left.



launching today! Free For February – book your half-hour session

To celebrate the launch of Flow Contemporary Arts Advice (FCAA)  I’m giving away 12 bespoke half-hour assessment sessions on a first-come first-served basis.

FCAA is a confidential advisory service provided on a one to one basis.  As a professional with over 12 years experience working in contemporary visual arts, mostly on scattered-site projects in non-gallery locations, and working in partnership with numerous organisations, I’d like to help others do the same.

I can work with you to identify gaps you may or may not see, and help you locate the tools you might need to fill them, to overcome those particular challenges.

In order to get the most out of our first telephone meeting, it will be helpful to know a little more about your needs in advance. Please complete this survey prior to our initial conversation, and I will be in touch within 7 days. It will only take you a minute to do.

I look forward to our working together.


my first Flow post – time to explore concepts and thoughts – starting with nesting

I usually post from my carolyn-black.co.uk website so this is a first for Flow Contemporary Arts.

I want to explore nesting – what does it mean to people? It’s one of those concepts that has a myriad of interpretations. Russian dolls. Birds. Mammals. Parents. Stacking things. Incubation. Settling.

Wiki offers a few ideas – some I have not seen before. Today I will start with the most obvious one, just to ease my mind into the theme:

A nest is a place of refuge to hold an animal’s eggs or provide a place to live or raise offspring. They are usually made of some organic material such as twigs, grass, and leaves; or may simply be a depression in the ground, or a hole in a tree, rock or building. Human-made materials, such as string, plastic, cloth, hair or paper, may also be used.

It’s easy to think about nesting today – working from home, in a warm house, heavy frost outside. Winter is a good time to think towards the spring, when nesting is easier to conceive of.

A search for the words nesting and flow together comes up with an intriguing article by Ben J. Rushbrook & Megan L. Head &
Ioanna Katsiadaki & Iain Barber:

Flow regime affects building behaviour and nest structure in sticklebacks

I have no knowledge of sticklebacks and their breeding habits. But some of the information in the article really makes me think, such as this:

Within flowing water treatments, we find that males select nesting sites with lower than average flow. We also find that nests built in flowing water are smaller and more streamlined than those built in still water.

Are people the same? I live by the River Severn, I find the constant ebb and flow of the tidal estuary calms me, excites me, I feel engaged with the landscape. My sister has moved to live by the sea.  We have no need to nest for breeding purposes, but we do appreciate streamlining our nests.

Flow and nesting are upmost in my mind. I welcome your thoughts on them too – literally, poetically, madly, deeply, metaphorically……..